First off, congratulations on the release of your new album 'Sem Skugginn'! For those readers unfamiliar with the band, could you start off with a short introduction to the band and to the music that you play?
Thank you very much! Dynfari is an Icelandic band whose music has been described as atmospheric/post-black metal. There are only two core members in Dynfari, me (Jóhann Örn) and Jón Emil. As of now, Jón Emil has handled percussion and guitars while I handle vocals, bass, guitars and some additional instruments where the songs require, including some additional percussion, electric organ and an accordion on the third album. We are unafraid to experiment with our music, trying different things such as the flute passages in Sem Skugginn's title tracks and clean vocals in between where most black metal bands would use screaming vocals exclusively. We work a lot with contrasts in our music and artwork, sometimes trying to surprise our listeners to make a point; comparing light and dark, loud and quiet, hope ('Von') and hopelessness ('Vonleysi'), moments ('Augnablik') to eternity ('Eilífð') and so on...
What inspired the creation of 'Sem Skugginn' and by what other music are you in general inspired?
We draw our inspiration from a number of sources. A short and cliché answer could be life in general, but there is some more philosophy behind it than that. There is so much that modern life neglects in our experiences as human beings. Our lyrics take on important subjects that most people do not lead their mind to every day, or even at all; the finiteness of man in the grand cosmos for example. We listen to all sorts of music but the main inspiration is from bands such as Austere, Drudkh, Nyktalgia, Woods of Desolation, and dozens more. I could take all day just mentioning good bands that inspire us. In general it is bands that attach some sort of point or meaning to their music and do it well.
According to you, what constitutes a good song?
That's a tough one. There is no sole recipe for a good song. I love slow songs, fast songs, long and short, harsh and delicate. But something every good song shares is feeling. I think it's possible to sense if a song is made from some sort of real feeling, emotion and inspiration to express some experience, opinion or truth or if it is just mass-produced, manufactured brainless crap for the masses.
Your lyrics are in Icelandic. Why did you decide to write in your mother tongue even though the biggest part of the world will not understand what it's going to be about?
That's true, I reckon the number of people with the ability to understand the lyrics will not exceed a few hundred thousand. Icelandic is an ancient language spoken only in this isolated island in the North Atlantic. We are proud of our heritage and language and we encourage bands to sing in their native language (although please do not interpret that as us being nationalists – we are not and our music will never be part of any sort of dogma or political opinion). We think Icelandic fits our music better than English and although I speak and write English fluently I still think Icelandic just captures what we are trying to express much better.
Could you shed some light on the topics that you address in your lyrics?
'Sem Skugginn' deals with humanity's decline and human depravity in relation to the striking contrasts between how humanity's lifespan is but a drop in the eternal ocean that can best describe the age of the universe (a moment in eternity - 'Augnablik” í “Eilífð'). The songs on our debut D'ynfari' are on a more emotional level than philosophical, describing one man's story as he discovers his brother's death in a snowstorm. The songs follow his battle through hope and hopelessness against nature and his own sorrow in a cold, snow-trodden wasteland until he reaches his eventual destination, hell. It is evocative of an apocalyptic story and can be understood as a metaphor for humanity's demise. The concept for the third album is currently in progress.
What does 'Sem Skugginn' mean actually? And the band name? Why did you settle for this moniker?
Someone finally asks! Dynfari' is an archaic Icelandic word, not an active word in modern Icelandic vocabulary. A literal translation would be “he who goes with thunderous sound”, often used in the meaning of “wind” or “storm”. We think it describes our music rather well and it has the capability of making people think to decipher the meaning, something people should really do more of. 'Sem Skugginn' means 'As The Shadow' and is used in the context that humanity lives “as the shadow” of what it could be – or once was. While I write almost all of the lyrics, both 'Dynfari' and 'Sem Skugginn'are titles that Jón Emil came up with. The only use of the word 'Dynfari' in Iceland nowadays is that it is sometimes used as a name for Icelandic horses.
´Sem Skugginn' was your first album for Code666 Records. How did you get into contact with them and why did you decide to accept their offer?
I got in contact with Emi at Aural Music in November 2011, when recordings for 'Sem Skugginn' had just begun. We have never met personally, but stay in contact through e-mails. He immediately liked our music and wanted me to let him know when the second album would be complete. When the album was ready in early summer of 2012 he offered us a two-year record deal. We had also received an offer from a smaller label but Aural Music's contract was bigger and offered more distribution, although the other one offered more artistically assistance (in forms of graphic design and such). We decided to accept Aural/Code666's offer as they seemed very professional and the contract was bigger than we could have ever imagined to get so quickly and early on as musicians.
Obviously the band at the moment only consists of two members. Do you play live in this set-up as well, or do you recruit extra members for performances? Are there any plans of extending the line-up for future releases?
We play live shows with the assistance of live members. Currently we have Hjálmar Gylfason on bass, the guy who helped us record and mix 'Sem Skugginn' (and, coincidentally, my third cousin). I play guitar, which is funny actually, because I am originally a bass player and Hjálmar is a guitarist. For the 'Sem Skugginn' release concert we have the superbly skilled guitarist Jón Þór Sigurleifsson on lead guitar. He has his own progressive metal band called Daedra which we share a rehearsing space with. We are also fortunate enough to get assistance from their keyboard player, Lilja and her sister Eir who will accompany us exclusively at the release concert on flute. We do not plan to extend the line-up for the third album but we never know what the future will bring us for the fourth album or possible tours.
I gather from some of your Facebook updates that a third album is already in the making. What direction is the new material going in?
We are constantly developing and maturing as musicians. We had a lot of ideas for 'Sem Skugginn' and perhaps a little too many. The third album will have a bit shorter play time and we believe the material is more focused and tighter. It is definitely more “atmospheric” this time around than straight out “black metal” although the black metal influences are far from lost. We believe the material is more accurately written, transitions more smooth and just better songwriting in general.
What does the creative process look like in Dynfari? Are you a band that is writing constantly new music?
Yes, we write and jam a whole lot of music that never escapes our rehearsing space. Or perhaps I should say never escapes our minds. Oftentimes the melodies come to us naturally and so we usually get ideas and write them separately – on our own. Then we rehearse a basic song structure together and work from there. Lyrics are always written at the final stages - the icing on the cake.
Is there any chance that we will be seeing Dynfari play live on the European mainland some time soon? Who would be your ideal tour partners?
We sure hope so. We're awaiting offers as what we need is the right offer at the right time. That's definitely something we can't do entirely on our own. An incredible live partner would be something like Katatonia or Alcest, but perhaps that's not something we will get right away. A smaller tour with some more contemporary bands such as Kontinuum, Fortíð or our Code666 roster partners Fen, or something similar, would be a more ideal start. Hopefully that's something people would be interested in.
Thanks a lot for this short introductory interview. All the best for the promotion of 'Sem Skugginn' and for the band in general of course. Hopefully we'll be able to experience Dynfari live some time soon. If you have anything to add, please go ahead.
You have only just seen the very beginning of the Dynfari journey. And don't forget – if you like the music, support the musicians. That's the only way for us to go on and hopefully one day play in your country!